"On the carpet of leaves illuminated by the moon." Up to this point, I did all I could to convince myself that the concept of this short novel was unique and interesting.
Calvino literally pulls you, the reader, into the story by assigning you the part of the main character. You begin reading this novel called, If on a winter's night a traveler, only to learn that the beginning of the novel has been reprinted throughout the entire book. There is no ending.
You return to the bookstore to exchange the book for another copy and learn there was a printing error; you were not reading If on a winter's night a traveler, but a completely different novel. Now you are interested in finishing that particular novel and purchase the new copy instead.
In addition, you are informed that a young woman, also in the bookstore, has just returned the first novel and decided to buy the copy of the same novel you did. You both connect.
Of course, a similar problem occurs again with the beginning of this novel, and you and this Other Reader must find the ending to that novel, only to be led into a different novel. You go on this journey reading through the beginnings of numerous novels that have no endings because of some printing or translation error or other mishap.
Well, the story never grabbed my interest, though I did all I could to be fascinated. The issue, however, that caused me to finally end my reading of it altogether, was due to several sections of explicit behavior that I cared not to read about. Yes, I did consider that I have read about adultery or fornication in Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina, and I also survived One Hundred Years of Solitude; but whereas Bovary and Karenina implied compromised situations, Calvino does not. I just cannot go into any more detail.
One more thing that came to mind about this particular book, given that it was published in 1976: I could not help but be reminded of contemporary or modern artwork that is supposed to pass as art. If you study it, you have to admit a major regression of art as we enter the 20th Century. Since I cannot help but think of artwork when I read literature, and while reading If on a winter's night a traveler, this piece came to mind:
|Contemporary art @ Norton Simon Museum|
OK, maybe that is harsh. Maybe it was more like a Picasso or a Warhol.
|The Ram's Head - Picasso @ Norton Simon|
|Campbell Soup Can - Warhol @ The Huntington|
However, I am not saying If on a winter's night is not worth a read - the concept is really creative - but if you are looking for a deeper work, this is not it. It just is not. And my concern is this: as I continue reading through The Well-Educated Mind novels, which are listed chronologically, am I going to continue to find a regression of literature, too?
For an update, see my revisit of this novel HERE.